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House Finches contribute to research

Posted by thunsdorfer at Mar 18, 2013 04:20 PM |
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March 18, 2013: The care center has taken in four House Finches with conjunctivitis this year, and each of the birds is making a contribution to research.

House Finches contribute to research

House Finch - Tinsley Hunsdorfer

The care center has taken in four House Finches with conjunctivitis this year, and each of the birds is making a contribution to research.

Whenever we receive a House Finch with this type of eye infection, care center staffers quickly collect a painless sample from the bird’s eyes before starting treatment. We ship all samples to North Carolina State University, where researchers are investigating how the disease has evolved in different locations.

The first of the finches arrived in early February with a badly infected left eye – it was almost sealed shut – and a damaged tail. Thanks to daily antibiotic eye medication, the male finch’s infection has cleared up, but his tail feathers haven’t grown in yet. Conjunctivitis makes birds susceptible to hazards in their environment, in part because their vision is impaired; this finch may have lost his tail feathers after being caught by a predator or hitting a window.

A care center volunteer found the second finch, also a male, a few weeks ago. The bird just finished his course of treatment and should be ready for release within a few days. The third and fourth finches are females that were admitted this week; both should make a full recovery.

House Finches are most likely to contract conjunctivitis in the winter, when cold suppresses their immune systems and they cluster together at feeders because of food shortages. This close proximity makes it easier for the infection to spread from bird to bird.

To help prevent the spread of conjunctivitis, keep your feeders clean. If you see sick birds, call the Wildlife Care Center at 503-292-0304 and take your feeders down for a few weeks.

The Audubon Society of Portland, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and North Carolina State University published a joint paper in 2006 about conjunctivitis in House Finches, which is available on our Research and Statistics page.

House Finch, conjunctivitis - Tinsley Hunsdorfer
Care center staff medicate a House Finch's eye for conjunctivitis - Tinsley Hunsdorfer
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